Greek Village closer to reality

Correction: The fraternity mentioned in this story was incorrectly identified as Phi Kappa Sigma in the print version.

The Greek Village project cleared another hurdle Sept. 24 when UCA’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a $12 million feasibility study for issuing bonds to fund Phase I.

During the meeting, trustees and President Tom Courtway discussed Phase I of the project, which will include five sorority residences and a community center. Each house will have a chapter room capable of holding approximately 125 students.

The bond term would not exceed 30 years and the interest rate would not exceed 5.75 percent.

The total project cost for the Greek Village is estimated at $11,888,550. Courtway said the cost amounts to about $20 per square foot for individual residences, which will each house 22-23 sorority members.

The Greek Village will be between Western and Donaghey avenues, with housing along Augusta Avenue.

“This is an investment in the future,” Courtway said. “This is an investment in the Greek system.”

Vice President of Student Services and Institutional Diversity Ronnie Williams said the university started out with a plan that is “comfortable” and that he is willing to address concerns with building design based on the bond issue.

“We want to be uniform [with the Greek Village project]across the board,” Williams said.

Concerns about the project include fitting future sorority and fraternity housing in the current site plan. Williams said Greek students desire “a real sense of community.”

Board member Bobby Reynolds said he was worried about the lack of a time frame for Phase II, which is set to include fraternity housing.

Williams said fraternities will be welcome to join the initial stage of the project, but only if they provide adequate funding.

“If the board says, ‘You get your grants in, you can proceed,’ I think the vast majority of them, if not all of them, will do that,” he said.

During the board’s Aug. 16 meeting, trustees addressed the issue that fraternities would like to independently fund houses in the Greek Village. Four fraternities said they were interested in building houses on university property, according to a proposal presented at the meeting. Eight fraternities and sororities with smaller student membership said they were interested in leasing chapter rooms in the planned community center.

The board’s Sept. 24 approval signaled a positive reaction from the Greek community, but also yielded information about fraternity interest in the project.

Scott Isenga, Fraternity Life director, said fraternities have expressed interest in financing housing independently and the need for chapter rooms for organizations such as Phi Gamma Delta.

“Some [fraternities]would prefer to have a house built for them if they could because it would save the cost on their end,” Isenga said. “For instance, Phi Sigma Kappa would prefer to have a house built by the university.”

He said the problem would be Phi Sigma Kappa waiting on the university to fund housing.

“It’s going to put them at a disadvantage,” Isenga said.

Fraternities have signed letters of intent to join the project. Isenga said some Greek organizations are in continuing discussions on how to provide the financing.

“Say all of the fraternities build their own housing, we’re not going to have a Phase II as far as we’re concerned,” Reynolds said.

Trustees asked about lot selection for fraternities interested in signing on to the Greek Village.

Board member Elizabeth Farris expressed an interest in a master plan for the project to evaluate for future growth.

Board Chair Victor Green said knowing specifically who is interested in university support and who wants to seek independent financing is necessary in moving forward.

Courtway said at the fraternity issue is one of the harder topics to address.

“We acknowledge that there are other fraternities that have money so it takes the debt burden off the institution if the build their own house,” he said. “As long was we control the architecture, mow the lawn, carry out the trash and ensure that they comply with the rules and policies of [UCA].”

Isenga said fraternities are willing to fundraise, allowing them to stay on the same pace as other Greek organizations involved in building housing.

Courtway said the Greek housing produces a means for encouraging alumni involvement and student involvement.

“A significant portion of our campus leaders come out of the Greek system,” Courtway said, praising Greek students’ higher retention and graduation rates for Greek students.

Of the expected Greek Village budget, $1,030,250 for contingency, $1 million would be used for infrastructure, $300,000 for capitalized interest, $130,800 for cost of issuance and $375,000 for furnishings.

Board members debated site plan options for the Greek Village that were presented at the meeting as well as whether fraternities should be included in Phase I of the project.

Construction is estimated to start in May 2014 and the five sororities would move into the residences in August 2014, according to a timeline presented to the board.

“It’s a fantastic problem to have a Greek community that is growing,” Courtway said. He said the meeting was a healthy discussion and that Greek interest is a good problem to have.

In other business, the board:

• unanimously approved the purchases of two properties at $910,000 for student and Greek housing. The Bill and Mary Hammet estate accepted $650,000 for property between Donaghey and Augusta avenues. Lewis and Grace Thompson sold their 100 South Elizabeth Ave. property at $260,000 to UCA;

• passed an amendment to the bookstore services agreement between UCA and Textbook Brokers, Inc. that allows for a 10 percent UCA Alumni Association member discount. The discount was available through the Barnes and Noble bookstore contract and

• unanimously approved a motion allowing Taggart Architects to assess a potential location and estimated cost for a Nursing and Communication Sciences and Disorders building.

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